Noah Jones continues family legacy with American debut
Eagle follows footsteps of older brother on the court
Becoming a Division I college basketball player is a dream countless young athletes across the country share. While many aim to achieve this goal through scholarship offers, some take a different path, like walking on, which involves earning a non-scholarship spot on the team.
For Noah, his brother serves as a role model and a blueprint for what he aspires to become at American. Charlie started his AU career as a walk-on in the 2013-2014 season, making an impact despite limited minutes. By his senior year, Charlie emerged as the team’s leading rebounder and even earned a spot on the 2016-2017 Patriot League All-Defensive Team. When he wasn’t making key plays in Patriot League Tournament matches, he was showing his brother what it took to be a Division I basketball player.
“I’d come down and visit him and then he’d help me work out for like a week or so and just kind of show me what it took in order to be a college basketball player,” Noah said. “So, it just kind of gave me that mindset. I'd go back to high school, and I already had an idea of like, ‘I might be getting by in high school, but I know I have to take it up a notch in order to reach my goals.’”
The Jones family has a strong athletic tradition. Jones’ mother, Karen Sollanek, played college basketball at Drexel University after an impressive high school career. His father, Charlie Jones Jr., played college football at Slippery Rock University. Growing up in this environment, Jones had a front-row seat to the complexities of playing at the college level.
Jones played baseball throughout his childhood but decided to shift his focus to basketball during his sophomore year at Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore. During his high school off-seasons, he dedicated himself to honing his skills under the guidance of coaches and trainers.
One of the key figures who helped Jones on his journey was Thelanious “TJ” Prioleau, the former head coach of the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville women’s basketball team. Prioleau, now the assistant coach of the men’s basketball team at Wilson College, played a pivotal role in Jones’ development.
“Going into my senior year when I was kind of unsure of what I wanted to do, [Prioleau] was someone that just kind of pushed me and told me just to go all in,” Jones said.
Jones’ path to American wasn't straightforward. He didn't receive a formal offer, but after his senior high school season in 2022, the AU coaching staff invited him to a walk-on tryout. Following an impressive performance at the tryout, he was offered a walk-on spot on the team.
“They gave me that opportunity to play even though it wasn't like a scholarship or anything,” Jones said. “I just wanted to give myself a chance to compete at the D-I level because I have that belief in myself that if I keep working, I can prove I belong here.”
Despite earning a spot on the team, Jones faced an unexpected setback as a freshman. A heart condition he was born with led to an irregular heartbeat in January 2022, requiring multiple tests by cardiologists. As a result of this, Jones was not cleared to play in the 2022-2023 season. Jones trained by himself in fall 2022 and was eventually cleared by medical professionals and University training staff in March 2023.
Jones officially enrolled at American during the spring semester of 2023, and started training with the team as a redshirt player. In addition to starting his college basketball journey, Jones began taking classes for his major, Finance. The sophomore is interested in corporate finance and accounting.
“When I got here in the spring, I just kind of was trying to be a sponge and absorb as much as I could being around the guys, being around the coaches at the time,” Jones said. “Just sort of reestablish myself in organized basketball because in the fall I wasn’t even here at school.”
On the court, Jones is a defensive-minded forward, who can defend multiple positions and facilitate. He also loves to run the floor and make plays in transition, something that head coach Duane Simpkins emphasizes for his players.
“That’s something that the coaches here tried to harp on us,” Jones said. “Just trying to beat our guy down the floor and not just running next to him.”
Jones worked diligently to regain his game-ready conditioning when he started practicing with the team. Sophomore center Jermaine Ballisager Webb was one of the first AU basketball players Jones met in the spring. Ballisager Webb, who is now close friends and roommates with Jones, is excited for the forward’s debut.
“He’s super intelligent as a basketball player, makes great reads and in general plays basketball in a good way,” Ballisager Webb said.
Jones hopes to be a high-energy player and teammate this season. He feels that first-year coach Simpkins has equipped him with the tools to make an impact for the championship minded team.
“Since the day [Simpkins] first got here, he's been clear that, ‘I don’t care if you’re a walk-on or a scholarship guy, if you give us a chance to win, I’m going to play you,’” Jones said.
“I really appreciated that, and that just gave me the reassurance I needed to sort of keep bringing it every single day and keep working because I know he's not going to hold back. He doesn't hold any grudges about who the guy is, ‘if he's helping us, he's going to play.’”
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.